Britain is the mobility scooter capital of Europe, with more than a quarter of a million on our roads. According to the Daily Mail, five years ago there were just 70,000 mobility scooters on the paths and roads of the UK, but now there are just shy of 300,000, according to the British Healthcare Trades Association.
Transport minister Norman Baker has commissioned officials to investigate, citing evidence that in at least one area of the country young people are using the mobility scooters ‘because the insurance and tax is less inhibitive than with cars or motorbikes’. The Department for Transport relies on the BHTA’s estimates of the numbers because no official figures are collated by the Government. Transport minister Norman Baker has instructed officials to investigate claims of misuse and worrying numbers of accidents now involving mobility scooters. It is technically illegal to drive a mobility scooter without a disability but critics say clearer regulations are needed.
Along with the elderly and the infirm, the scooters are also being bought and used by young healthy people looking for a cheaper mode of transport than a car. Sarah Lepak of the BHTA explains: ‘It is not only the most seriously disabled who use scooters. I have also heard about more people using them who are able-bodied. Maybe some people can’t afford a car or public transport and think, maybe I can afford one of these instead. The major problem is it could make it more difficult for people with genuine disabilities to get hold of them.’